COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – U.S. Women’s National Team striker Nicole Woods (Beverly, Mass.) has announced her retirement from the team. The 24-year-old competed in 45 international matches and has an extensive playing career playing for the red, white and blue.
Woods first picked up the game in high school with her sister. They were always soccer players growing up but when her sister was a sophomore at Beverly High School, she decided to try field hockey. When her time came and with a little encouragement from her family, Woods gave the sport a try as well and it also gave her the chance to play on a team with her sister.
As she neared her senior year, Woods always knew she wanted to be a college athlete – but the tough decision came because she was torn between field hockey and ice hockey. She eventually made the decision to focus solely on field hockey the summer of her junior year. She just joined the club, NorthEast Elite Field Hockey, and also started USA Field Hockey’s Olympic Development Pathway program, Futures at the time.
“I could feel my skills developing week by week so I really enjoyed feeling myself improve and wanted to continue that progression to see how far I would go in the sport.”
She set her intention on playing in college and luckily everything fell into place when she was seen and recruited by the University of Louisville. She emphasizes luckily because she was late to recruiting but made a stamp for herself as a Cardinal. She was on the Louisville team from 2014 to 2017, where she was a four-year starter and accumulated many honors including, two-time Preseason All-Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Selection, two-time All-ACC Second Team, All-ACC First Team and three-time National Field Hockey Coaches Association (NFHCA) All-West Region First Team, and in 2017 she was named the Longstreth/NFHCA West Region Player of the Year and was placed on the Longstreth/NFHCA All-America First Team. She also ranks ninth in Louisville’s history for career points (71) and assists (25).
Her journey through the Olympic Development Pathway began in 2014 when she was named to the U.S. U-19 Women’s National Team. In 2015, she moved up a team to the U-21 USWNT where she played a key role in helping USA claim a silver medal at the 2016 women’s Junior Pan American Games, as well an eighth-place finish at the 2016 women’s Hockey Junior World Cup.
In 2017, Woods was named to the senior USWNT and earned her first international cap that May in a series against Ireland.
“Being part of Team USA was a dream come true for me,” said Woods. “Since I was so new to the game and had only been playing for 3.5 years, when I made the junior national team. I was just in awe of the next level of field hockey and knew I wanted to work through the pipeline as much as I could.”
“When I made the jump to the USWNT from the U-21 team I was so excited and ready to take on the next level of the game that was out there. Playing with so many of the girls I essentially grew up with through the pipeline from U-19 to the Junior World Cup definitely are some of my fondest moments playing on the national team. I will never forget my first cap, first tour, first major tournament, and just so many other firsts that shaped me into the player and teammate I became.”
Following her first international appearance, Woods went on to represent Team USA in major events including a gold-medal performance at the 2017 FIH World League Semifinals, bronze-finish at the 2017 Pan American Cup, 2018 Vitality Hockey Women’s World Cup and in 2019 and 2020 FIH Hockey Pro League seasons.
In April 2019, she unfortunately tore her anterior cruciate ligament, which sidelined her for a bit. With that recovery and the addition of the pandemic, Woods returned to the pitch almost a year later in May 2021 for the second season of the FIH Hockey Pro League.
Through the trials and tribulations, Woods has fond memories of different moments throughout her career.
“I’m proud to reflect on many different highlights from my career,” noted Woods. “Getting my first cap on home soil with my college teammates, Erin [McCrudden], and against our college goalkeeper Ayesiah (McFerran]. My first summer on the USWNT in 2017, taking home goal in the Hockey World League Semifinals where I only had about three caps, and of course, winning that tournament but how much I learned and picked up during not only my first tour but first big tournament.”
Woods has a long list of individuals she would like to thank, who have impacted her through the years as an athlete, person and teammate. “First off, I am so grateful to Janneke who took me onto the U-21 team as a young and nervous player and gave me the direction and push to believe in myself and to really see my potential.”
She goes on to thank the entire USWNT staff of that cycle including Larry Amar, Yuko Kimura, Nick Shedd and Christa Miller, not only for the time they gave the program but the investment they had for her as an individual during her recovery. She also would like to thank Greg and Ryan from Drayer Physical Therapy in Lancaster who helped her rehab after surgery and made sure she progressed through each stage of that process in the strongest way possible.
She continues with Kyle McMinn for taking on the challenge of working with the team and her when the pandemic started and there was a shift in the coaching staff. He aided in her return to play protocol, and she credits his work to help her get healthy and back in shape. She thanks Anthony Farry and Greg Drake, current USWNT coaches, who in only a few months taught her so much and provided a refreshing perspective and look on the game.
“I would like to thank my teammates through the years as they were committed to being the best athletes they can be but also being great teammates along the way. I have so much respect for the work they put in day in and day out and for five years have thoroughly enjoyed being their teammate through the highs and even during the major lows.”
Woods goes on to thank her college coaching staff from Louisville including Justine Sowry, Lucas Piccioli and Olivia Netzler-Gray who taught her the game at a high level, were patient with her as a young player and gave her the push she needed to take the next step in her career. Her NorthEast Elite club coach Chelsey Feole who picked her up as a random player from a summer camp and convinced her she had enough raw talent to play in the club system and college.
Lastly, she would like to thank her family for always attending every event she participated in, even if it was across the world, encouraging her to play for as long as she has and challenging her to come back from any obstacle. “Even after the worst lows of my career whether it was my knee injury, failing to qualify or the loss of Larry, I always felt like I had an army of people in my corner to turn to.”
Woods plans on moving back to Louisville and wants to continue to be involved in the sport either through coaching or volunteering for the USA Field Hockey Kentucky State Chapter. She still has so much love and respect for the game and is looking forward to helping grow it.
USA Field Hockey would like to send best wishes to Woods in her future endeavors.